Survivor all-star Rob Cesternino picks the player most likely to win season 40

Sandra Diaz-Twine; Rob Cesternino; Parvati Shallow
Sandra Diaz-Twine; Rob Cesternino; Parvati Shallow
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment, Courtesy Rob Cesternino, Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Rob Cesternino knows a lot about Survivor. After making it to the final three on 2003’s Survivor: The Amazon, he returned two seasons later for Survivor: All-Stars. His torch was snuffed third that time, but Cesternino’s adventure with the CBS reality competition series was far from over. In 2010, he launched Rob Has A Podcast, a weekly unpacking of Survivor episodes (as well as other TV series). Ahead of celebrating the 10th anniversary of his podcast—and the February 12 premiere of Survivor: Winners At War—with an event at Busby’s East in Los Angeles, Cesternino sat down with The A.V. Club to share his predictions of how all 20 returning winners will fare on season 40 of the reality juggernaut.

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Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

Sandra Diaz-Twine

Previous seasons: Winner of Survivor: Pearl Islands (season seven), winner of Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains (season 20), Survivor: Game Changers (season 34), mentor on Survivor: Island Of The Idols (season 39)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 99-1. “I think Sandra is in a tough spot here. Sandra is the queen, but everybody knows it this time. She was successful because she was able to sneak up on people, and now Sandra isn’t sneaking up on anybody. I could see her doing well, but the target on her is as big as that giant wooden sculpture of her head we saw last season.”

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Illustration for article titled iSurvivor/i all-star Rob Cesternino picks the player most likely to win season 40
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“Boston” Rob Mariano

Previous seasons: Survivor: Marquesas (season four), Survivor: All-Stars (season eight), Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains (season 20), winner of Survivor: Redemption Island (season 22), mentor on Survivor: Island Of The Idols (season 39)
Non-Boston Rob’s odds he’ll win: 98-1. “It’s going to be real tough for Rob to do well this game. I hope he can figure it out because I think it’s fun to have him in the mix the longer the season goes on. He’s a great leader, and that’s helped him in the past, but how does anyone keep Rob in the game knowing what he’s capable of and everything that he’s done? I just don’t see any way that he makes it to the merge in this season. He’d have the same winner odds as Sandra, but he has a better chance at coming back from Edge Of Extinction.”

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Adam Klein

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Millennials Vs. Gen X (season 33)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 50-1. “I’m very worried about Adam. He’s the Survivor super-super fan, but everybody knows it. He’s super smart. He knows everybody, but is he really close with anybody? I think he’s going to be seen as somebody who is a hard player and will be a big target.”

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Yul Kwon

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Cook Islands (season 13)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 49-1. “Yul is someone I’m thrilled to see back on Survivor, but I’m really worried about him because I think the book on Yul is that he is a brilliant genius and nobody knows him. He’s threatening to the other players because they’ll say, ‘The wheels are always turning. Can we trust him?’ I think he’s going to be someone that people target.”

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Nick Wilson

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: David Vs. Goliath (season 37)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 40-1. “Nick is another one I’m worried about. He was able to do so well in David Vs. Goliath because he got everyone to underestimate him. They thought he was a small-town guy, which he is, but no one knew that he was a lawyer, and now he’s $1 million richer. No one is going to feel like he’s some guy with a simple background. He proved to be way more cagey than anyone expected, so Nick could have a hard time finding people who are willing to work with him.”

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Sarah Lacina

Previous seasons: Survivor: Cagayan (season 28), winner of Survivor: Game Changers (season 34)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 38-1. “Sarah played such a great game in Game Changers, but how does anybody out there trust Sarah again? Everyone she worked with last time had the wool pulled over their eyes, so, like with Nick, I think people are going to be very hesitant to trust Sarah deep into this game. I think she’s another early target.”

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Sophie Georgina Clarke

Previous seasons: Winner of Survivor: South Pacific (season 23)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 35-1. “Sophie is super-smart player who did such a great job when she was 21 years old. She has such a great mind for the game, but I’m very worried because I don’t know if she has a ton of connections with other players and she could be viewed, like Adam, as someone who is too smart—and that’s one of the worst things you can be on one of these all-star seasons.”

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Anthony (Tony) Vlachos

Previous seasons: Winner of Survivor: Cagayan (season 28), Survivor: Game Changers (season 34)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 34-1. “I love Tony. Tony in Cagayan was my favorite player that I got to watch as a podcaster. I am very worried about Tony, but I’m less worried about him the more I think about it because I do think there are a lot of players that are looking for somebody who is loud that they can hide behind—and there’s no better person to hide behind than Tony, because he’s always going to take the bullets that are coming to your side. If you can figure out a way to work with Tony, he’s a great guy to have around, so I hope he at least makes it to the merge.”

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Amber Mariano

Previous seasons: Survivor: The Australian Outback (season two), winner of Survivor: All-Stars (season eight)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 30-1. “Amber is fascinating to have come back because I never thought Amber would play Survivor again—let alone her and [her husband] Rob in the same season. I think the key for Amber is Rob has to go out early. If he gets voted out early, I think people could forget about Amber and she could make another deep run, like she did on All-Stars. The biggest thing working against her is the Edge Of Extinction, where Rob could be voted out but they’ll still vote out Amber because he could come back and you’d have to deal with both of them. I think the Edge Of Extinction really hurts Amber.

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Danni Boatwright

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Guatemala (season 11)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 25-1. “Who is Danni Boatwright? Nobody knows her, and I think she’s such a wildcard on this season. She was the original stealth bomber, and I am sure that’s what she’s going to try to do again, but I don’t know if anybody trusts her because they don’t know who she is.”

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Natalie Anderson

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: San Juan Del Sur (season 29)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 20-1. “Natalie is probably an underrated player. She played a really smart game her first time, and she’s going to start on the same tribe as Jeremy. I think she’s someone to watch out for. She’s so strong and athletic, so she’s going to have a really high threat level. No one is going to forget about her.”

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Parvati Shallow

Previous seasons: Survivor: Cook Islands (season 13), winner of Survivor: Fans Vs. Favorites (season 16), Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (season 20)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 19-1. “Parvati is an interesting one to come back. You would think that she’s got a huge target on her back, but it’s been a while since she’s come back, and I don’t think she has a ton of connections, so I don’t know if people are going to be as threatened by Parvati as they might have been five or six years ago. If she can build up an alliance, I think she has a shot at going further and people giving her more of a shot than they might Rob or Sandra.”

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Denise Stapley

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Philippines (season 25)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 18-1. “Denise is another fantastic player. She’s the only winner I’ve ever predicted in the history of making predictions, so I have a real soft spot for Denise. She’s tiny. You can forget about Denise. She went to every tribal council her season and never got voted out, so there’s a realistic chance that people forget about Denise again. But the question is: Is she someone who will do enough that people will vote for her in the end?”

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Ben Driebergen

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Heroes Vs. Healers Vs. Hustlers (season 35)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 15-1. “I think Ben gets a raw deal. Nobody likes that there was a fire-making twist his season that came out of nowhere at the final four and that he found all the idols, but none of that is Ben’s fault. I think he’s a really likable guy who can be goofy. I would look at Ben as a reliable vote, and I hope that he’s able to not run around like crazy looking for idols and can stick around.”

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Kim Spradlin-Wolfe

Previous season: Winner Survivor: One World (season 24)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 14-1. “Everybody loves Kim Spradlin. She was so great in One Word. But the question is: Was Kim so underrated that she’s overrated? We have to play mind games now. Are people threatened by Kim because she was so dominate her first time out? I think on paper they are, but when you are around Kim, she’s just so charming that it’s very hard to get rid of her.”

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Wendell Holland

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Ghost Island (season 36)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 12-1. “I think that Wendell actually plays a lot like Jeremy from Second Chances, where I think Wendell likes to find somebody who is a louder personality than he is and hide behind that person. I’ve seen in the pre-game clips that he wants to work with Tony. If he can set that up, I think he can do really well and could be a good winner candidate.”

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Michele Fitzgerald

Previous season: Winner of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng (season 32)
Rob’s odds she’ll win: 10-1. “Michele is so underrated coming into this season. I think she’s really primed to do well because she has no threat level. Nobody is scared of her and she is so likable and charming. She’s almost set up like a Parvati coming back in the season that she won. I think Michelle is somebody with real winner potential this season.”

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Jeremy Collins

Previous seasons: Survivor: San Juan Del Sur (season 29); winner of Survivor: Second Chance (season 31)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 9-1. “Everybody loves Jeremy. He did such a great job in Second Chances, and I feel like he’s in a perfect spot again. It’s been five years since he played the last time, and he has a ton of friends. Nobody is threatened by Jeremy. Everybody wants to be friends with him. So I think Jeremy is somebody people could forget about—and they shouldn’t.”

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Tyson Apostol

Previous seasons: Survivor: Tocantins (season 18), Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains (season 20), winner of Survivor: Blood Vs. Water (season 27)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 8-1. “Tyson is a great friend. He and I have done a podcast together called News AF every week for the last four years. He’s in such a great spot because he is so underrated and underestimated. He has such a likeable personality, but he’s not a try-hard. If anything, people look at him like he’s a slacker. And he has great connections. I think he’s in a great spot.”

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Ethan Zohn

Previous seasons: Winner of Survivor: Africa (season 3), Survivor: All-Stars (season 8)
Rob’s odds he’ll win: 7-1. “It’s so amazing to see Ethan come back after battling back cancer twice. I’m so proud of Ethan that he’s able to return to the game. I think he has a really great chance because his reputation is that he’s the nicest guy and is super-smart and knows what he’s doing. He’s going to play, ‘Oh, I’m the old guy. I don’t even know what an idol is.’ And he does. I think he’ll be underestimated, and he’s got a great story if he makes it to the end. I don’t think that anybody is ever going to target him.”

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